Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily for February 27, 2011 – Faith in Your Own Voice

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Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 27, 2011 – Faith in Your Own Voice

Isaiah 49:14-15, Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9, 1Cor 4:1-5, Matthew 6:24-34

Complete biblical texts

I learned a long time ago that what the arts know best is the human spirit. While not every movie, painting, poem, ballet or song will stir our souls, some do. There does not even have to be a religious word in the title for a work of art to give us a spiritual message.

So, which film do you think deserves an Academy Award tonight?

In The King’s Speech, Bertie, who becomes King George VI, is encouraged to have faith in his own voice. There are many ways to interpret this film. Some focus on the King’s speech impediment and his fear of public speaking. Others find that, deep inside, Bertie suffers from a lack of identity, a poor self image, that began with unhappy childhood experiences. [1]

Thanks to the discovery of correspondence between the King and his therapist Lionel Logue, we learn something else about these two characters. The monarch and the commoner became very good friends. Their relationship which was tense in the beginning is exactly what gave the King courage when it came time to give the speech of his life, leading his country at the outset of World War II.

How many of us find ourselves in a similar situation; not being able to find our own voice when trying to express ourselves, talk about our troubles, describe our dreams, share our needs and expectations with someone else, anyone else?

Many people are prohibited from doing so. As we watched the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt we saw how previously suppressed voices took to the streets and squares to topple powerful dictators. The rippling effect is now apparent in other Middle East countries and on a global level. Close to home we hear the protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and on the front steps of our own capitol.

Uprisings in distant lands and the King’s stammering remind us that finding courage to speak our own voice can be a painful process. It begins with believing in ourselves; having a good self image. Finding our identity is helped when others accept us for who we are, unconditionally, at home, in school or at work. It means parents affirm their children, employers respect their workers, teachers help students build up confidence.

The Israelites in exile felt their voices were not being heard. Believing they were abandoned by God they began to seek alternative protection. The prophet Isaiah urged them not to be so faithless. [2] He told them God does love them like a mother who would not forget to nurse her children. What a wonderful image of God who listens to our cries and cares for us.

Psalm 62 imagines God to be a fortress that protects people from all harm. We find a similar narrative in Matthew’s gospel. While this speech from the sermon on the mount specifically addresses material possessions, it suggests there is little to worry about in life if we have faith in and a good relationship with a nurturing God. Our relationships on earth begin with God. That nurturing God sustains us and gives us an identity. Seek first the kin-dom of God and everything else will be all right.

Here I dialogue with the assembly:

Me: Do you believe that? That if you believe in God everything be will be OK?

Assembly faintly: Yes

Me: Again, do you believe that?

Assembly much louder: Yes!

Me, as if puzzled by the answer: Really?

Me: Let me see if I understand. So if you have faith in God everything is going to be all right. Pause. Ah, hah.

However, it’s one thing to say the birds in the air and flowers in the fields have nothing to worry about. It is another thing when people have no food, no shelter, suffer discrimination and injustice and are shot in the streets of their own homes.

So, this gospel can be a difficult one to grasp even for those with abundant faith. Belief in a good God alone does not immediately erase the problems in the world. The Israelites were on a long arduous odyssey searching for the Promised Land. Many generations later, we are still not there. Where is that land of milk and honey? Do we become cynical? Doubtful? No. Like our ancestors we do not give up. We continue the journey of the Jewish Jesus to make life peaceful and just for all. Is it safe to presume, then, that is why we are here this morning. We are here not just to hear beautiful music, not just to hear a decent sermon, not just to take communion, but to find ways to advance God’s kin-dom.

In the face of unrelenting odds we are called to a life framed by determination, a stubborn desire to be courageous, to make our voices heard, to stand up for our rights. We are also commissioned by our baptism to help those who have no voice, those who have been put down in society.

King George VI came to trust and befriend an unorthodox therapist who believed in the King. That sustenance gave the monarch the courage and strength to speak. Our constitutional right to freedom of speech is also a biblical right that needs to be respected and protected in our Church, by our Church. EVeryone of us has a right to speak up in church and state. Our relationship, our friendship with God is what gives us an identity. It is a self image that flourishes whenever you and I help each other to have faith in our own voices.

1 http://www.slate.com/id/2285533/

2 Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. Liturgical Press. 2006 (Third Edition), pp. 134-136

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

5 thoughts on “Homily for February 27, 2011 – Faith in Your Own Voice

  1. the thing about knowing the will of G-d – is how can anyone POSSIBLY know that, without appearing grandiose, arrogant, and self-righteous. i always think that when i see – even briefly- some evangelist on TV telling listeners what they HAVE to DO to achieve the will of G-d. That doesnt seem right to me at all.
    i suppose you can ‘KNOW” the will of G-d for yourself, but then, do you tell anyone? it’s like that joke about the priest who decides to tell the bishop he needs a sub that sunday, and then proceeds to the golf course – where he hits a hole in one. THEN, the voice of G-d says – that’s great! a hole in one! So, who ya gonna tell?
    and what if you’re totally off the mark? “Hey guys! I know the will of G-d! HE wants us to quit our jobs and go live in some caves…”
    We cant know. we do know when we are doing the right thing (at least i hope so!) and that may be the will of G-d in our lives.
    now, of course, anyone can be wrong about it. but it is also that ‘still, small voice’ that lets you know about the Shekhinah, the presence of G-d.
    Maybe it is one thing we arent meant to know………….also keeping in mind that what G-d wants, and what we want — totally different.
    Many of us – surely not all of us — know when we are on the right path in ourselves, in our hearts. that may be the closest we humans will get.

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  2. excellent thanks

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  3. This homily and the readings which formed it are challenging for me. When you asked the question of who believes that faith in God means everything will work out, I was shaking my head “no”. People who believe in God can be homeless, oppressed, starving, sick, alone, lonely and struggling with other personal and societal ills.Left to fend for themselves, everything is not ok. I don’t think that “feeling close to God” takes the place of clothing, shelter, health care and justice in our church and world at large. I do believe that knowing that I live in the grace and mission of Christ helps me have an identity that supports, compels me, to help us “BE” the answer. I am called to be the hands and feet and eyes (adapted from Theresa of Avila) of Christ to do good on this earth.Knowing my identity and using my voice is the invitation this homily reminds me of. That is how we help to make belief in God lead to at least some things being alright. I appreciate homilies that make me think and invite honesty with myself.

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  4. I think you really pulled these ideas together well. The concept of developing and expressing our own voice is so important, and you showed it in many contexts. Maybe it would be helpful to ask ourselves (I find myself doing this now)specifically when our voice is heard, what are we saying and who hears our voice. These are challenging questions for me.

    As for the will of God, it as not a meaningful concept to me. The only connection I could make is that, if it exists, it is not in any way external. Otherwise, I believe that we are abdicating responsibility for our own lives.

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  5. I read Barb’s comments with great interest. We all hope we are doing the will of God. I believe it is to love God and my neighbor as myself, than I can say I am doing God’s will. I do find it difficult to believe someone telling me it is God’s will beyond this simple command. A group moved to a city because they were told it is God’s will. This has not been a pleasant experience, so was God wrong? Or are SOME people not following God’s will to love one another. I find it difficult to believe people suffer because it is God’s will. Or it is God’s will to leave a job. God’s will is only to love one another, the rest will follow. I am away this weekend so I do look forward to reading your homily next week.

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